Framed for the Scroll: The Intersection of Art, Artists, Audience, and Social Media

DAN RATNER on 3/05/2024 | Photography by Dan Ratner

“It’s a wet and rainy evening at the Michael Reid Gallery, the atmosphere is charged with the evocative scenes of Narelle Autio’s “Into the Distance,” where each photograph not only tells a story but also communicates with its neighbours, creating a harmonious narrative tapestry.”

Amid the buzz of talent and murmurs of awe, art is experienced as a profound narrative journey, starkly contrasting with the ceaseless motion and fleeting glimpses of social media platforms like Instagram, where each post must vie for attention in an endless stream of content.

This sharp dichotomy prompts an exploration into the seismic shifts brought on by social media on artistic practices, questioning how its inherent features reshape the creation, presentation, and reception of art, thus transforming the landscape of cultural engagement.


The Transformation of Photographic Storytelling
Echoing the sentiments of Joel Meyerowitz, photography is a potent narrative medium that captures moments steeped in storytelling.

Masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson have historically wielded the camera with precision that narrates expansive stories through a single frame.

Today, Narelle Autio continues this tradition, her lens focusing on landscapes and fleeting moments that draw viewers deeper into her visual narratives.

Yet, these rich, experiential works face a conundrum when transitioned to the small screens of platforms like Instagram, dominated by speed and immediacy, drastically transforming traditional audience engagement.

Instagram’s Trilogy of Impact

  1. Individual Posts: The Immediate Impact
    Each Instagram post is a digital encounter that demands instant appeal.

    The platform’s design, which emphasises visuals that captivate and engage quickly, often sidelines the subtler, more complex facets of artwork.

    This immediacy can dilute the layered narratives that artists like Autio strive to communicate, reducing profound art to mere aesthetic stimuli.

    The decision to post is heavily influenced by anticipated responses—likes and comments—which can compel artists to prioritise like-ability over narrative depth, impacting their choices in what to shoot, select, and share.


  1. The Grid: Aesthetic Cohesion Versus Narrative Depth
    The Instagram grid acts as a curated portfolio, urging artists to consider how their works interact visually when placed side by side.

    Although it offers a unique platform for storytelling and connecting pieces, its restrictive nature may limit the diversity of displayed art, favouring images that conform to a particular visual aesthetic or theme.

    This often results in overshadowing individual narrative depth, potentially constraining the artist’s creative expression and limiting the portrayal of more complex artistic messages.


  1. The Feed: The Ever-Changing Current
    The Instagram feed embodies the perpetual flow of new information, where artworks must compete for attention in a dynamically refreshing environment.

    This raises critical questions about the sustainability of meaningful engagement, urging artists toward creating visually arresting content that can stand out but might lack the narrative depth that requires more contemplative interaction.

Algorithmic Mediation and Its Cultural Ramifications
Instagram’s algorithms, which prioritise content based on engagement metrics like likes and shares, play a pivotal role in determining which artworks gain visibility.

This critique explores how algorithmic filtering can homogenise artistic content, favouring images that are immediately gratifying and visually appealing over those that are unconventional or demand contemplative engagement.

Additionally, the platform’s commercial objectives might skew the representation of art, prioritising profitability over artistic merit.

Navigating the Digital Terrain: Implications and Observations
The digital transformation of art presentation offers unprecedented opportunities for reach and audience engagement, yet it also presents formidable challenges.

Artists must navigate a landscape where their creative output must align not only with artistic intent but also with the operational logic of digital platforms.

The proliferation of digital cameras and tools further blurs the lines between professional artistry and amateur experimentation, raising questions about the craft of photography.

The incursion of social media into the art world is redefining the paradigms of artistic engagement and cultural consumption.

As platforms like Instagram continue to sculpt the public’s interaction with art, they present both significant challenges and opportunities: to redefine what it means to engage with art in the digital age.

As we traverse this digital landscape, let us not lose sight of the essence that defines art: its ability to provoke thought, evoke emotion, and connect deeply with the human experience.

In this new era, our challenge is to ensure that technology enhances these experiences rather than diminishes them, fostering a digital culture that values depth, reflection, and meaningful interaction.